March 2003

The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter containing provocative commentary about issues important to the Lawson Software community.  The LawsonGuru Letter is published by--and is solely the opinion of--John Henley of Decision Analytics.  Visit Decision Analytics at  For subscription information, see the bottom of this message.
The LawsonGuru Letter is not affiliated with Lawson Software.

In this issue:
1. Michael Hammer: The Integration Shuffle
2. Guest Spot: Lawson's Excel Add-In, A Useful Data Conversion Tool?
3. Contemplating Columbia 4. Smart Shelves? Radio Wave Lawson?
5. Reader Feedback
6. Survey: Integration Tactics
7. Lawson Tips & Tricks This month in addition to the normal LawsonGuru Letter fare, I'm honored to provide you with not just one, but TWO guest articles, including one from famed business author Michael Hammer.  Dr. Hammer has long been a favorite of mine, and he has graciously provided an article for us!  Read on...

1. Michael Hammer: The Integration Shuffle
(By Dr. Michael Hammer. Michael Hammer is president of Hammer and Company and a widely-read author of several best-selling management books. His latest book, The Agenda [ISBN 0-609-60966-1, Crown Publishers], is a survival guide to the current economy.)
In today's business environment, customers rule. Almost every industry is plagued by overcapacity and cutthroat competition, not to mention commoditization, which makes all products and services virtually indistinguishable. Combine these factors with customers- increased ability and propensity to switch suppliers, and you have a situation in which customers call the tune. They are taking advantage of this newfound power to demand extraordinary levels of performance of their suppliers: They expect low cost, high quality, minuscule cycle times, and enormous flexibility.

There is a strategy companies can follow to keep up with their customers- apparently insatiable demands: integration. The root causes of excessive costs and errors, of delays and inflexibility, are organizational boundaries. In most companies, work is fragmented across multiple offices, departments, divisions, and small business units. No one has end-to-end ownership of the work or responsibility for the customer. In such environments, duplication and overhead run rampant, errors breed like rabbits, and responsiveness is a daydream. The key to success is pulling different units together and making them work as one.

One step at a time
The first step on this journey is process integration. By putting in place end-to-end process measures, by making employees understand what customers expect and that they are responsible for making sure those expectations are satisfied, leaders can get formerly warring units to start pulling together.  Manufacturing and distribution will work together under the umbrella of the order fulfillment process, while sales and service will do the same under order acquisition. Process integration also sets the stage for subsequent process redesign efforts that eliminate unnecessary work, assign activities to those in the best position to carry them out, and ensure that the right people using the best information make the decisions.

The key technological enablers for process integration are integrated software systems, especially enterprise resource planning (ERP) and customer relationship management (CRM) systems. Through their shared databases and compatible modules, these systems support end-to-end processes across an enterprise.

The second stage on the integration journey is enterprise integration, through which different business units are made to operate in a consistent way. The vehicle for this is process standardization, in which common processes and their supporting systems are implemented across a multiunit enterprise, thereby allowing it to operate as though all the units were one, but with out incurring the overhead and inflexibility of centralization. An integrated enterprise can present a common face to its customers and suppliers and operate with less administrative overhead; the payoffs are reduced costs and increased customer convenience.

The third phase is interprocess integration. It is of limited use to dissolve the boundaries between functions or departments, only to erect them between processes; having order acquisition and order fulfillment working at arm's length is no better than having engineering and marketing doing the same. The customer is not particularly interested in the distinctions among different processes; the customer wants them all to work together seamlessly so as to deliver maximum service and accuracy. Organizationally, interprocess integration is achieved by augmenting process measures with measures of overall organizational performance; technologically, it entails using enterprise application integration (EAI) tools, which can link the integrated systems that support different processes.

The final integration frontier is interenterprise integration. Processes do not stop at company boundaries. My procurement process and your order fulfillment process should be linked into an integrated whole. Failing to do so inevitably means that we will both do extra work, we will have inconsistent data that leads to errors, and we will have to build inventory and other buffers to compensate for the latency of information. By connecting our processes and our systems, we can drive out redundancy, slash inventories, and operate in sync. This is where XML, .NET, and similar technologies come into their own, by allowing heterogeneous systems to communicate and collaborate in real time.

Each stage in the integration hierarchy yields progressively greater benefits-but entails progressively greater organizational challenges. Companies have no choice but to follow this path to the end; their customers will not let them stop along the way.

Top Priorities for IT Investment in 2003

Integration 39%

Data Warehousing 37%

Physical Infrastructure 31%

Security/Business Continuity 29%

Source: AMR Research survey of 100 IT and business executives

2. Guest Spot: Lawson's Excel Add-In, A Useful Data Conversion Tool?
(by VendorPoint. VendorPoint is the pseudonym for an actual Lawson consultant, who is currently suffering from conversion overdose.)

In the past, data conversion and mass data upload into Lawson were limited to importdb and the standard Lawson conversion programs. Lawson now has a fairly new tool set, the Microsoft Add-Ins, which integrate Lawson with Microsoft Excel and Word. The Excel Add-In offers Query, Upload, and Drill Around features, while the Word portion offers Mail Merge capabilities.

Where conversions are concerned, the Excel Add-In has greatly empowered the user and extended conversion capabilities beyond the Lawson programs.
The Excel Add-In, using the Logan/IOS engine, provides an easy-to-use graphical user interface into Lawson's forms and tables. Queries and uploads are set up via the Add-Ins' wizards, and can be saved and shared with any user who has the Add-In installed. This portability makes the Add-In ideal for multi-user functionality, even for users with little to no technical background. It also increases productivity, since multiple users can convert data into the same program at the same time.
Lawson's conversion tables typically require all fields to be accounted for, either by populating them with data or by signifying them with a comma. Occasionally, Lawson will change a previously optional field to a required field, without warning or notification via documentation. This hidden obstacle can easily be avoided when using the Add-Ins because you have the capability to select only the fields that need to be populated with data, similar to keying in the information on the Lawson form. Since the upload is modeled after Lawson forms, there may be a few standard required fields, for example, function code (A,C, or D) and company. So, if you know what information is required on the form, populating your spreadsheet is a cinch. Mapping your columns of data to Lawson fields is even easier. When you convert data this way, the Add-In applies all of the business logic of the forms to the data being uploaded.
The Add-In has proved to be particularly useful for data conversion and mass data upload. Well, let's be honest-mass data upload = a couple hundred records. The speed with which the Add-In uploads or queries data greatly decreases as the number of records increases. Luckily, you are restricted to only 66,536 lines of data, an inherent limitation of Excel. So if you don't have a lot of records to upload or you're not in a hurry, this is the perfect tool for you!
There is one other major downfall to the Add-In: the lack of data integrity. The importdb command and conversion programs check the data being loaded into Lawson for correct formatting, valid data values and lengths. In addition, the data is loaded quickly, regardless of volume. The Add-In, unfortunately, does not perform any data validation prior to or during the upload process. It is only as the records are processed that any data errors are returned. This can be a bit unsettling, equivalent to running the conversion program only in update mode. The records can usually be modified after they have been loaded into Lawson, however, it is a best practice to show a little prudence when dealing with your production system and perform data validation prior to uploading it into the system.
A very helpful feature of the Add-In is the upload status that is given per record. As each record is processed, a status message is written back to the Excel spreadsheet, for example 'Add Complete-Continue'. If only one out of a batch of records return an error, the entire file does not need to be removed to correct the one error and then reloaded. You can focus in on the records that error, fix them, and only reload the corrected records. (For those non-conversion experts, whom I envy, if there is one record that errors out during an importdb or while running the conversion program-hopefully, in non-update-the entire file has to be deleted from the temporary Lawson table, the one error fixed, the file replaced on the server and imported again. Please take my word for it--this is a time consuming and tedious process.)
Sarcasm and data volume aside, the Add-In has many useful features: it can be used to convert data, upload configuration data, interface data from outside systems into Lawson, and extract data from any Lawson tables or screens. Not only does the Add-In open up the realm of data conversion to any possible Lawson screen or table, but you can select exactly which fields you want to populate. This flexibility reduces many of the aches and pains associated with traditional Lawson data conversion and integration. Even though the Excel Add-In may not be ideal for every data conversion need, it does offer additional data conversion opportunities.
My compliments to Lawson for developing such a useful tool. I encourage you to explore the Add-In's capabilities and recommend it for use both during and after your implementation. Who knows? One day the Excel Add-In could replace traditional Lawson data conversion as we know it.

Have your technology expenditures produced the returns on investment you expected?

Yes 14%

Usually 43%

Rarely 25%

No 19%

Source: 2003 survey of 252 executives conducted
by CFO Magazine and Morgan Stanley

3. Contemplating Columbia
Moments after sending you last month's issue, I heard of the tragic loss of the Columbia shuttle, and its 7 astronauts.  [Read More...]

4. Smart Shelves? Radio Wave Lawson?
One of the primary goals for the LawsonGuru Letter is to keep you updated on the latest IT trends, and explain how they affect you as a Lawson client. RFID is one of those "new technologies" that is about to become commonplace.  [Read More...]

"Adults invented work so they could keep playing together."
- Silver Rose

5. Reader feedback

Send your comments to

A couple of comments on the DVP process, and Lawson's "customer relations":

  • "The DVP process was not originally part of the upgrade software. Recall that it was Digiterra's program, and was used only in their upgrades (which were supposed to be 100% of all upgrades if you remember the first-year "exclusive" deal they made with Lawson). The actual upgrade software doesn't check for orphan records (or prerequisite setup like a an API would). It merely converts the data as if using an importdb protocol. So what's Lawson's (legal) liability here? A client could argue that their data was not flawed in 7.X, and the upgrade software created orphan records. If sued, Lawson would be hard pressed to prove otherwise. So the DVP eliminates that liability. I have no idea why the charge $$ for it, but I assume it's because most customers have been eager to pay for it.?
  • "I enjoyed reading your letter this month. I have to sympathize with Eddi with his problems for the upgrade, since I just resolved a matter with the delivery of the software. It seems Lawson forgot to have us fill out a 'Change of Platform' addendum, so they were sitting on our order, but never bothered to notify us of the problem. He is right that Lawson has to be careful about having 'customers for life'."

Worthwhile Reading

Aviall Thinks Outside the Box
The aviation-parts company was having trouble shipping out its goods.  Then it found salve for its self-inflicted wounds.
[Ed: Includes details of their Lawson / Seibel integration]
Baseline, January 2003,3959,849236,00.asp

Benefits Nearly 40% of Payroll, Study Finds
Medical insurance spikes fueling runaway benefits costs; no relief in sight.
CFO Magazine, February 2003,5309,8765,00.html

New Value, Same Customers
The value of customers goes beyond what they spend.
CIO Magazine, January 15, 2003

How to Learn the 10 Most Important Technologies
DevX, January 8, 2003

This Could Be the Start of Something Small: Enterprise Application Integration
CIO Magazine, February 15, 2003

The Big Squeeze: CFO's Ninth Annual Cost Management Survey
CFO Magazine, February 2003,5309,8716||M|486,00.html

6. Survey: Integration Tactics
This month, let's focus on your integration with Lawson. Do you integrate other systems with Lawson? Not just common interfaces like EDI, ADP, Seibel, etc. Tell us about your integration of Lawson with your "home-grown", legacy, etc. systems. I'll keep your answers anonymous to prevent any dissemination of trade secrets, etc.

If you're a regular reader, you know I'm constantly advocating automating and integrating everything under the sun. Despite my omnipresent barrage on this, I do realize that there are some situations where this simply isn't smart.

For instance, I was talking with a fellow this past month who has some field offices that operate in what can certainly be described as "third-world" conditions. Internet or VPN access? No way--they don't even have electricity. Their computers operate on generators. Satellites? Too expensive. Their solution is pure simplicity: Store-and-forward. Save to a diskette and deliver to an "uplink" site.
So, if your "integration" is manual, tell us why. If you are integrating, is it batch or real-time? How do you accomplish it? Do you use "Lawson-approved" batch integration points? What development environments do you use? Do you read/write directly from/to the backend database? Do you use BCI, ProcessFlow or one of Lawson's web-based protocols? Are you using the new Lawson Excel Query/Upload wizard?

Send your integration "war stories" to

7. Lawson Tips & Tricks
Share your tips. Send them to
How does Lawson execute program logic? 
I often get this question from "conventional"? (i.e. non-Lawson) COBOL programmers. [Read More...]

The LawsonGuru Letter is a free periodic newsletter containing provocative commentary about issues important to the Lawson Software community. The LawsonGuru Letter is published by--and is solely the opinion of--John Henley of Decision Analytics.  Visit Decision Analytics at subscribe, send an email to: To be removed from the subscription list, send to:

© Copyright 2003, Decision Analytics. All rights reserved. Please share The LawsonGuru Letter in whole or in part as long as copyright and attribution are always included.

Decision Analytics is an independent consultancy, focusing on Lawson technical projects, and specializing in customization/modification, data conversion, and integration/interfaces.  Please visit for more information.

Decision Analytics. Integrating Lawson with the Real World.